Growing Up

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Growing Up

Being Thalia

Chapter 26

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count: 2779

Summary: Thanks to the influence of a young friend, Thalia comes to the realization she’s grown up.

Previous Chapter, Another Step Forward

October 2021

Thalia stares at the open journal in front of her. She absently flips back to the beginning and reads through the book, skimming quickly. She smiles as a weight lifts from her shoulders, realizing she’s made more progress than she thought. She shakes her hair back and whispers, “Doc was fuckin’ right. Who’d have guessed?”

A dark haired girl with braces and a wiry preteen frame plops down on the couch next to her. “You’re talking to yourself again. You do that a lot. Sure you’re not going crazy, living all alone in Madrid?”

Thalia rolls over onto her hip, pushing against Avery’s shoulder, and reaches her hand into the bag of potato chips. Pulling out a few, she rights her body into a more comfortable position. “Whatdya mean I talk to myself?”

“The last three nights, while you were fixin’ dinner, I could hear you in the kitchen, talking to yourself.” The girl claims, munching down on a handful of chips. “It’s very distracting to my homework process.”

Thalia scoffs. “From what I’ve seen, your homework process is hanging over the end of the bed, typing in numbers on your calculator while you Snapchat with Charlotte.”

“It works. I have straight As this term,” Avery brags, picking at a chip stuck in the purple bracket on her teeth. “Are you-” she sighs. “Are you talking to that guy?”

Thalia slowly chews the chip in her mouth. Due to the time differences, she and Tom have been on the phone in the evenings while she prepares their dinners. She didn’t think Avery would be able to hear over the TV and the music the pre-teen constantly plays. Placing her hand over her mouth, she talks while still eating. “What guy?”

Avery peers down in the bag, shaking the chips. “I heard Mom talking about how you got back together with some guy from your past. I guess Dad told her.” She shrugs. “I’m not a baby anymore, Lia. Hell, Dad just got remarried to the baby mama. I know you’re not getting back together. If you’re dating someone, you can tell me.”

Thalia straightens up a little more, and sends a stern look to the young lady. “Avery, don’t curse. It’s really crass when kids your age do it. I don’t like it. It doesn’t make you more grown up or tough.” Avery blushes and shakes her hair from behind her ears, whispering her apology and hiding from her role model. Thalia pats her leg. “It’s okay, I don’t think less of you, I just. I just hate to think of you doing that.” She reaches up and scratches under her hairline. “I have had a few dates with someone I once knew, that I actually met here at the University.” Seeing the young girl’s eyes grow wide, Thalia adds, “Someone I met before I knew your dad.”

Avery nods. “Cool. Where he and Dad friends, like he and Hems are now?”

Thalia chuckles. “No. No, your father and this man were not friends.” She pulls her smile over her teeth, remembering how the two men definitely were not friends. Yet when she needed them most, coming out the hospital years before, they both pretended to tolerate the other. “But they reluctantly agreed on some things.” She smiles big. “One of them being that I’m pretty incredible, and irreplaceable.”

Avery laughs. “It’s true. No one can replace you.” She huffs. “I can’t believe he married the baby mama.” She screws up her face, looking angry. “I blame you. If you hadn’t left, he wouldn’t have been at the grocery store alone, and bumped into her.”

Thalia squeezes Avery’s knee. “Come on, ‘Ry. You gotta quit calling Karen ‘the baby mama.’ It’s not right, and it’s not fair.”

“I’m almost twelve. I’m supposed to be hateful and dramatic. I’m not stupid. They got married because they had a baby. I mean, I love Liam. I’m making a scrapbook for him for Christmas. I’m working on it at school, so Dad doesn’t know. But I don’t have to like her.” She sticks out her tongue, gagging at the thought. “She’s not you.”

Thalia chews the inside of her lip, not knowing what to say. Her young charge continues her rambles.

“Did you leave because of me?”

“What?!” Thalia jumps forward, grabbing the young girl’s shoulder, tears springing to her eyes. “Oh, Avery, honey. I’m so sorry. If that’s what you’ve thought all this time, I am so, so sorry.”

Avery’s lip quivers as she falls into Thalia’s embrace. “I just really miss you.” Her chest rattles as she takes in a deep breath, letting out a sob. She sniffles, and coughs to clear her throat. “I thought you didn’t want me, or that I was too much work. You left twice.”

Through tears, Thalia holds her closer, wrapping her hand in the young girl’s hair. She breathes out slowly, then inhales the sweet, innocent smell of baby powder. “Oh, shit. I messed up, didn’t I? Oh, Avery. Me leaving was because I wasn’t grown up enough to know what I wanted or needed.” Her throat clicks and she pulls back, tilting the girl’s head up to look into her eyes. “Leaving you was so hard. Why do you think I still call and write you? I love you, honey. So much.”

Avery licks a tear from her lip. “Lia, you shouldn’t curse.” She laughs and her eyes glisten with tears. She sucks in her lips, smacking them when she releases the pressure. “You promise?”

“Avery, I didn’t realize till this very moment you thought that.” She clears her throat and looks up at the ceiling, trying to mask her fear of the pain she’s brought to this child. “My own mom left me when I was little. I’m sorry, I’m sorry I did that to you, made you feel like you weren’t important or special to me. I should have realized it sooner.”

With her own tears still falling, Avery climbs into Thalia’s lap, wrapping her arms around her plump confidant. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. Don’t worry. I’m not messed up. You’re not the reason Mom thinks I need therapy.” Her laugh comes out like a snort and the breath tickles Thalia’s cheek. “All the girls in my class go. She wants to keep up with the Jones’.” She pokes Thalia’s shoulder. “Thalia, you are the best thing. Like, don’t get mad I say this, but you’re like a kick ass role model I have to look up to, and that’s pretty amazing.” She settles in Thalia’s lap as the older woman rocks her back and forth. Like she did when she was younger, she weaves her fingers in Thalia’s curls. “I don’t know if Dad loves Karen, but I know he was happy with you. I remember crawling in bed on Sunday mornings and we would all read, and then Dad would make amazing pancakes.”

“Don’t forget the vanilla,” they chime at the same time. Thalia kisses the top of Avery’s head.

“I remember studying for spelling tests together, and how terrified I was when I had to rush you to the emergency room when your appendix burst.”

“You were scared?” For affect, she scratches the scar on her belly. “Thalia, you’re never scared of anything. That’s why you’re gonna be a great mom. You’re always so calm and collected.”

Her tears beginning to dry, she laughs. “Glad you think so, I was a jumbled mess. Always afraid I was doing it wrong, that your mom would yell at me, say horrible things about me.”

“Oh she did. Still does. Hates your natural curls and the fact you can eat half a cheesecake and still look amazing,” Avery admits, smiling up at her dearest friend. “But never anything really mean.”

“Your mom, she always made me so nervous. And I was always envious of how professional she dressed. I kinda copied her look a bit, adapted it for me, with things I could find at the market in Madrid. When she brings you for Spring Break, I’ll take you there.”

“See. She likes you. My friends still can’t believe I get to go to Europe for break, and stay with my dad’s ex-girlfriend.” Avery giggles. She leans back and screws up her face in thought. “So you like shopping now? Can we skip school tomorrow, and you take me shopping for a dress? The first school dance is in a few weeks.”

“We can’t skip school for a shopping day-”

“Please? You’re only in town a few more days, and I have to go back to Mom’s. I’m really glad she and Dad both agreed I could stay with you a few days, so you didn’t have to be alone in this rental.”

Thalia looks around the clear open space. The modern furniture lacks warmth and comfort, but having Avery here with her made the time fly. Avery’s stepfather picks her up in the mornings and gets her to school on time, so Thalia can head to campus to cover Chris’s classes and lead a few seminars. She’s enjoyed getting in the carpool lane at the Middle School to pick up Avery after volleyball practice. “I’m glad you’ve been here too. I’ll tell you what- let’s call your mom and have permission for me to pick you up early. I don’t wanna step on her toes if she already has plans to get you a dress.”

“She wants to get me something pink and girly, and won’t let me wear my cowboy boots.”

“I don’t know why you think that’s a fashion statement.” Thalia grins, kicking up her legs, revealing her yoga pants tucked into her boots. She leans forward for her phone, unceremoniously dumping the young girl on the floor. They both laugh and scramble for the phone. She opens her contacts to dial Maura when it rings, Tom’s face flashing on the screen.

“Ooow, it’s your new boyfriend.” Avery giggles, jumping up from the floor, rubbing her bruised bottom.

Thalia rolls her eyes and answers the phone. “Hey, hang on just a second-” “Go get started on your work. We’re going out for Chinese in a bit with Hems and Jane, but I wanna see your Spanish homework first.”

Sí, Señorita Bonita,” Avery calls over her shoulder as she leaves the room.

“Hello, darling,” Tom purrs. “Is that your new nickname? Miss Pretty? I totally agree, it suits you.”

Thalia laughs. “That kid I swear, she’s-”

“What’s wrong? You sound like you’ve been crying?”

She scoffs. “How the hell can you hear that on a transatlantic call? You have like the ears of a bat. Bats hear everything, right?”

“Something like that, love. I actually don’t know much about bats.”

“Oh, well! Something you don’t know? I’m shocked, Professor Hiddleston-”

“Thalia.” His voice scolds. “I asked you a question. Quit deflecting. You’ve been crying. Is everything okay?”

She sighs, snuggling back into the couch, pulling a pillow into her lap. “‘Ry and I just had an emotional heart to heart, that’s all.” She looks at her discarded journal resting beside her on the couch. “She came in as I was looking over my therapy journal. I’ve really come a long way in a short time, Tom. I was just realizing I really like who I am now, how everyone I’ve met along the way has helped me become the person I am. Even the bad people,” she says, running her fingers over the slight scar on her cheek. She inhales deeply. “It’s like I’m finally becoming Thalia, who I’m supposed to be.” She pauses, hit with sharp pang of emptiness, missing him. “When can I see you again? Can you be in Madrid when I get back?”

She hears him shuffling some papers. “I think I can arrange that for you, darling. I’ll have to juggle a few things. In a hurry to see me, are you?”

“Yes, you know I am. But it’s not because I need you. I mean, you know that right?” She runs her hand over her head, pushing away the wrinkled brow from her deep thoughts. “The person I am now doesn’t need you. But I want you. And it’s my choice. I think that’s really important… Growth.” She tilts her head, hearing and believing her own words. “I choose you.”

“Thalia, that’s so wonderful to hear you say that.” His pleasure practically crackles over the phone line. “When you left me alone in London ten days ago, I never would have thought this trip would be so therapeutic for you. I’m glad-”

“It’s closure, Tom. I’m not going to deny the things I’ve done in the past. I was awful to you, and other people who are important to me. I’m also not going to deny how I’ve felt the last several days. You, and Chris… Walking around campus, you’re both around every corner. And it was nice getting to see him, have dinner with him a few days before the wedding. We won’t get chances like that very often.” She sighs. “You’ll have to understand, to trust me, he and I have a special bond. And nothing’s gonna change that, and you can’t try to take those things from me-”

“I promise, I won’t,” he barely whispers.

She swallows. “Being with Avery has been great. She’s such a neat kid. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Did I tell you? Her mom and I sat together at her volleyball game last night. She has a conference in Madrid in the Spring, wants to bring Avery with her so we can spend time together.”

Tom’s throat makes a clicking noise. “That sounds, interesting.”

Thalia verbally swallows again. Her voice drops. “She thinks I’d make a good mom. Tom, I don’t know how to be a mother. My own left me, and when I was younger, I didn’t let Stacey do ‘mom’ things I should have let her do.” She worries her free hand inside the pocket of her college hoodie, playing with a paper straw wrapper she shoved there earlier. She heavily breathes, almost panting. “Tom, I’ve had the same vision. Only it’s a little boy, with dark curly hair, and his father’s clipped British chirp.” She audibly exhales. “Maybe I’m less selfish now. Maybe Madrid is good for me, because I can still travel to so many places easily by train, still get to archaeology sites just hours from the city.” She shrugs. She can feel his anticipation palpitating over the phone. “If I had the right man, if he understood me, understood I don’t need a child to feel complete. And it was a choice, not just an ‘oops, forgot my pill’ kind of thing… Maybe I could be a mom.”

He coughs. She can almost picture him nervously running his hands through his unkempt hair. “Well then, I’m not sorry at all you went to the States, maybe that’s something-”

La tarea está terminada.” Avery announces with a flourish, waving the papers in Thalia’s face.

Thalia grabs them and shows Avery her irritation. Tom’s lulling voice grabs her attention again. “I guess I better let you go eat. What’s a ‘Hems?’”

Thalia laughs, looking over the school work. “Hems is the nickname for a friend of mine, we were both teaching here. His name’s Hemsworth, but-”

“Chris? Norse Mythology? Blonde and bigger than a house? I know him! We worked together in Sydney for a few weeks, on a project. Great fellow. He’s like my brother from another mother.”

“Oh, God. Tom. Please, please don’t ever say that again.” She cringes. “That actually hurts my ears.” She shakes her head with exasperation at the young lady in front of her, wearing leggings under a long skirt, with cowboy boots and her father’s old leather jacket. She gives the free-spirited girl a thumbs up. “I’m being summoned for dinner.” She moves her mouth away from the phone, asking Avery, “Do I need to change?”

Avery looks her over. “Everyone falls in love with you, but Hems has Jane, and Dad’s married now, and I guess your new man doesn’t want someone sweeping you away so, I suppose you can go looking like an overgrown sorority girl. Your messy bun is lopsided.” The girl grabs the truck keys from the ledge and runs out the door.

Tom laughs. “Full of spunk, not your influence at all, I suppose? Go. Tell Hemsworth I said hello and I’d love to see him again some time.”

“I love you, Tom.”

It’s getting easier and easier for her to say.

“I love you too, darling.”

Click to Chapter 27, Not Yet

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